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Discussion Starter · #45 · (Edited)
This is a fascinating thread.
I dig old drag bikes.....alot!

(this may be a bit too new for this thread)...but I had a friend that was killed drag racing a Nitro Sportster named Bruce Lauer, from FonDuLac, Wi. (early 90's) Bruce owned a couple of grocery stores, and also had a small bike shop he had just started. He also was a long time member of the Masters M/C. He was a super super nice man. He was a goldmine to helping me learn to make my knuckle run better.
Anyone know of him??

Also, I had a friend I met out here, named Stan Deshong.
Stan was originally from Vallejo, Ca. and had been a long time drag & Bonneville racer.
He was a fascinating man, who, sadly has passed this last year.


You can read his story here... http://www.my68flh.com/2010/01/28/iron-man-stan-dishong/
Thank you VERY much for this post. It is not often I get the pleasure of reading about a motorcycle racer I have not read about. I had heard his name before but did not know how enormous an impact he had in the motorcycle community.

I did not know Bruce Lauer and am very sorry to hear about your friend's death.
 

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Discussion Starter · #54 · (Edited)
twistedtee,
That was a good question about the timing of the two Sportster engines in "The Freight Train". When I bought it from Elmer he included his 10 years experience in racing twin engine Harleys. He had tried everything. He said it ran a little better times if the front engine was timed 2 degree ahead of the rear engine. That's the way I ran it the 2 years I raced it.


choptop37,
I knew of Marlow Billings but did not know him.


epinut,
I do not know what happened to the dragster or the XLCH after selling them but sure wish I did. The XLCH must have had a '60 tank on it because it was titled a '62.


takehikes,
Leo Payne was probably the best early Harley nitro racer. He developed the S&S fuel carb. I have a good story to tell later about the first time I saw him run. It was the first time I had seen a motorcycle on nitro. Mel Disharoon was at the Bowling Green Reunion a few years ago. I will post some info about that reunion later. Many of the names mentioned in this thread were there. Man, I got a lot of stuff to post!
 

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Discussion Starter · #55 · (Edited)
The switch to nitro part three.

One thing I have not talked about is how dangerous it was cranking a bike on nitro. You could not crank it with a kick starter of course and remote starters were years away. You had two choices. Pull it down track to crank or use rollers. Rollers were less dangerous. You have seen how it is done with rollers on the video I posted. Danny told me over and over that cranking it was more dangerous, as far as an explosion, than racing it. "The compression chamber MUST be clean of ANY nitro when you let the clutch out to start it or it will blow up". He had learned the hard way and was trying to save me some grief. I took his advise seriously and never had any problems starting. Oh, by the way, have I told I had met this pretty little girl. Before that, all I had been interested in was hot cars and hot bikes. Now there was a girl thrown in the mix! But she loved all the things I loved doing. It wasn't long before I was thinkin' I want to marry her. I am not going to get mushy on you but want to prepare you a change in my life and a temporary change in my Fuel Bike career.
 

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Discussion Starter · #56 ·
This is the only other picture of my first dragster. I can not remember who took those photos but sure am thankful 40 plus years later. That is me on the left side of the picture. The other guy was a really close friend who turned me on to Sportsters. His name was Tommy Abernathy. We were the same age. We lost him to cancer a few years ago. We had the only two Fuel Bikes in North Carolina in 1969 and were considered insane by some. By this time I was preparing for an August wedding.
 

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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
Here is a last minute update for the Fuel Bike Reunion at Piedmont Dragway, Greensboro, North Carolina.. I will be traveling there for the rest of the week. As I stated earlier Pete Hill is our Special Guest. Also I will get to see my old friend Johnny Sands, who I was racing in the video I posted. Ronnie Johnson, who was still in school when his dad Danny built my T/F Kawasaki in '78 and later rode his Fuelers when he retired, is coming. And Ray Price, father of the Funny Bike, has picked up his last Harley Funny Bike from the Sturgis Museum and fired it for the first time in about 20 years to have it in running display condition. I bet we will have some last minute stragglers show up too. I will post some coverage in a week or two. The Reunion is Friday and Saturday May 14-15 2010 if you are interested in coming.
 

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Discussion Starter · #61 ·
The switch to nitro part 4 (the last)

Here are some thoughts and memories of the '69 racing season and my switch from gas to nitro. I remember being somewhat apprehensive about the switch to nitro and the possible blow ups but not as concerned as the first time I rode it on gas a year earlier. I did have a couple mishaps with it though. I had a rear brake failure on it but it was at an 1/8 mile track thank God. I had to drag my boots to get it stopped. Remember, it had no front brakes. The other mishap that could have really hurt me was after our wedding. I had agreed to quit racing for a year to spend our income on newlywed neccessities. After our wedding we moved into a rental house that had a carport and utility room at the end of the carport. That is where I stored the dragster. Occasionally I would roll it outside to have working room and our new neighbors would come over to have a look at it. About 2 or 3 months later I caved in to request to fire it. After all, I had about a gallon of nitro that should not be stored in that utility room. Right? All the excuse I needed. My bride agreed to help me crank it on the rollers. She had done it many times. We had a long concrete driveway from the street to the carport. I fired it down on the street and ran it for a minute or so with my neighbors looking in disbelief. Just as I was getting ready to shut it off I decided to do a burnout up the driveway. Then, I wouldn't have to push it up that incline. Man, that was some good thinking! I started the burnout at the bottom of my driveway and got the tire spinning about 100 miles an hour and smoked the place up. I was only about half way up the driveway when I shut it down and pulled in the clutch. But the tire was spinning so fast the inertsa shot me up the rest of the driveway with me pushing down on the rear brake as hard as I could and my other foot dragging the concrete, into the carport and to the outer wall inside the utility room. I was almost stopped when I reached that wall so no damage was done to me or the bike but it scared the shit out of me. Right then I realized I needed the money I could sell it for to buy newlywed stuff. I never heard it run again. I sold it in 1970 about 6 months after getting married. It would be awhile before I got back into nitro motorcycle racing. I will be posting pictures of Fuel Bikes and stories of races I attended during my off time before purchasing a new T/F Bike from Danny Johnson.
 

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Discussion Starter · #63 ·
This is from last weekend at the reunion. This was our special guests Pete and Jackie Hill and the last Fuel Bike he raced. Pete was 60 or 61 when he retired in the early '90s. Both are doing fine other than normal 70s year old ailments. That is Ray Price's rig in the background. He had his last Funnybike on display. I will post a picture and info on it soon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #64 ·
A few years ago NHRA honored pioneer T/F Motorcycle Racers at their National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green Ky. The old "Freight Train" crew was there. That is me in the middle, T-Bird Yelton on the right and his son Jamie on the left. Yelton was my crew chief and the guy in the video working on it. I sold it to him when I retired. You may notice it has a wing now that it did not have 25 years ago in the video. It was VERY ironic that the NHRA Reunion was at the same track and the same weekend (middle of June) as the famous American Motorcycle Drag Racing Association Nationals back in the '70s. That great picture of Boris Murray was there one year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #67 ·
This thread is international now with posts from Sweden and Australia. Thanks!

And thank you Larry for your kind comments. I have enjoyed reminising about the days I was involved. I will be the first to tell you I was no Joe Smith or Boris Murray but I did do what they did for awhile in the early days of Fuel Bikes.

I am going back one year to 1968, the year I saw my first Fuel Bike and the year I bought this bike. I have mentioned meeting Danny Johnson at the '67 Daytona Bike Week. I ran into him again at the NHRA Springnational in Bristol Tennesee a few months later. He had his street bike there but I was a long distance truck driver and asked my dispatcher for a Monday delivery load in Tennesee and he had one. I drove the rig there and got paid for it. Danny told me there he was going to experiment with a low dose of nitro in his bike. That fall he was at the North Carolina Mountain Fall Rally. I rode my Harley there. Danny was helping a customer tune his stock bore and stroke Sportster. Danny had worked it over thoroughly so it ran like a big incher. They called out a big inch Sportster and bet the guy 50 bucks they could outrun him. He knew all about their bike and jumped on the bet. He beat the owner handily and collected his 50 bucks. Then Danny offered to race him again in 30 minutes for 100 bucks. The guy figured there was not any kind of tuning that would make him lose. He took the bet. In that 30 minutes Johnson changed carbs. The guy said if he was changing to alcohol that was OK. It isn't going to make that much difference. After all, his bike had 20 more cubic inches. To be honest I thought Danny was going to lose another 100 bucks.

When they raced again Danny's bike won by several bike lengths and the guy grumbled as he paid off. I asked Danny how in the hell he did that with changing carbs. He smiled and said he was running about 15% nitro. He said he was building a T/F dragster and would have it out in early '68.

Fast forward to the spring of '68. I still had not seen a Fuel Bike Dragster but Leo Payne was coming to Georgia. He was like a rock star to me. Danny told me he would have his new Fuel Bike there to make some virgin passes with and hopefully get some help from Payne. When I got there and saw Leo it was like I was looking at Elvis. I could not believe I was actually looking at in person the guy I admired so much.

Danny was on the rollers to make his first shakedown run. He didn't get to that weekend. He blew it up on the rollers. Then Leo came out and made his pass. I had a smile from ear to ear. Johnson was a fast learner and did well in '68. And as mentioned in an earlier post he insisted I trade my street bike for this dragster. I will always be thankful to him that I did.
 

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Discussion Starter · #68 ·
This was at the NHRA Gatornationals a few years ago. We were invited as part of the Vintage Race Car display. We fired it a few times and I did a short burnout. There were many many people who told us they had never seen a multi-engine T/F Bike before. Those are the leathers I raced in but I can't zip up the jacket. You know how leather shrinks over time. HAHA!
 

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Discussion Starter · #71 ·
Folks,
We are blessed to have one of the "greatest" joining us. He has a wealth of knowledge and an elephant's memory. I might add that Joe was also one of my inpirations when he took over the spotlight from Leo Payne in the late 60s. Look for him to share some of his memories from his long career. Thanks for joining us Joe and let the questions from our readers begin.
 

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Discussion Starter · #79 · (Edited)
To start where I left off when I sold my first Fuel Bike in 1970, I did not race much for a couple years. I was spoiled on nitro and did not care to ride anything else (know what I mean Joe) but being newly wed and now with a child on the way a new Fuel Bike was out of the question. I did keep up with what was going on in Danny Johnson's racing. He went from a rookie Fuel Bike racer in '68 to AMDRA T/F Champion in '71. And there was a "new kid on the block" and I do mean a kid making a statement in North Carolina. I was at the Rockingham North Carolina Nationals in 1970 or '71 and they had a Fuel Bike class among all the car classes. When they got ready to run the bikes I went into the staging lanes to see if I knew anybody. There was this teenager standing next to a Fuel Harley and I wondered who his father was, the rider of course. Well my jaw dropped when it was time to run the bikes and this "kid" starts putting on the leathers. I was looking in disbelief when he fired the bike on rollers to make a pass. "Oh shit" I thought and was REALLY concerned for his safety. I needn't be!! He rode it like a pro.......and he was only 16-17 years old. His dad, who was there, had to sign a waiver. Anyone know who this "kid" was? Joe, you know so you don't count.
 

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Discussion Starter · #81 ·
You are right. John Dixon not only starting building Fuel Bikes at the age of 15 but riding them too. I know he has viewed this thread but it is hard to get him to post. He was, in my opinion, one of the top ten all time best Fuel Bike builders and riders. He built the frame for "the Freight Train". I REALLY hope he will join us in posting here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #88 ·
These are 40 year old memories so please excuse me if I have some facts wrong but I am telling it as I remember it. It is the spring of 1970 and my friend Danny Johnson has become one of the Fuel Bike stars. Roy Strawn, the founder of the American Motorcycle Drag Racing Association has been promoting an all motorcycle drag race at the Atco New Jersey drag strip and it was close to Johnson's Maryland home. It was one of a few all motorcycle drag races. Strawn had also put together an all Fuel Bike touring circuit and they were coming to Charlotte. It was in early June of 1970 and it was an eight bike show including Larry Welch on Sonny Routt's twin engine Triumph, Danny Johnson, Dick Prime, Al Charlier, John Dixon (I think) and three others I can't remember. Danny was the only one I knew very well and I was very happy to see him again. He introduced me to most of the others and told them how great I was (I'm lying) but I am sure they greeted me out of courtesy to Johnson. It was the first time I had seen most of them because I had only raced locally in '69. I was really appreciative that Roy Strawn had done what he had done for bike racers, especially Fuel Bike racers. The finals came down to Welch and Johnson. I was in the staging lanes with Johnson just before they ran. Johnson told Welch he was going to save his equipment for the big race coming up and he would red light. I was really surprised to hear him say that. I was REALLY disappointed because Johnson had been the quickest bike there. It was pitch dark by then with only minimal lights. When the tree counted down Johnson red lighted and Welch proceeded to put down the most beautiful pass I ever saw him make. He had engineer boots with metal heels. When he popped the clutch he went into billowing tire smoke that covered him and he dragged his boots all the way to the clocks with sparks flying from the metal heels. It was one of those still nights and it took a full minute for the smoke to clear. It impressed the hell out of me and still is etched in my memory 40 years later. I went over to Danny's pit pissed off and wanting to know why he did it. "There is a new Motorcycle Record Meet next week in Bowling Green Kentucky and I was just testing here. I want the record so I was saving my stuff. It was the first I had heard of Bowling Green.
 

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Discussion Starter · #89 · (Edited)
Yeah Joe it did. He could probably have beat Welch.

I did not go to Bowling Green that year but did not miss another one until they ended in 1978. I don't remember Danny coming home with the record in A/F (Joe, do you remember who did? Boris won it so it probably was him) but one of Danny's team members did. Ray Price set a record in one of the Street Classes with his 55 cubic inch Harley. By the following year Price would be inventing the Funny Bike Class.
 

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Discussion Starter · #94 · (Edited)
That is a beautiful picture of Danny and Goliath II. I own that bike today. I will get into a story about Goliath I later. As I said in the opening post I will recall good memories and not so good memories. This is one of the later and one that most of you do not know about Danny. As I have said before he lived in Maryland when I met him at Daytona in '67. He lived there in '68 when I traded my street bike for the dragster. By then he had made friends with another North Carolinian from Yadkinville. His name is Wilbur Beaty. His family owned a major tire store there. I believe Danny and Wilbur met at the '67 Fall Rally in Asheville North Carolina I mentioned in an earlier post. That is where Johnson used 15% nitro. Anyway, Wilbur became a customer of Dannys and would later become one of his best friends and a business partner. Wilbur Beaty is the guy who owned the dragster I traded my street bike for. I went to his place in Yadkinville and picked it up before traveling to Maryland where Danny met me for my first runs on it. The time line gets fuzzy here for me but I believe it was in late '70 when I called Danny to see how things were going and his wife answered the phone as usual. We talked a minute or so as usual and then I asked if Danny was home. There was silence on the other end. I thought she didn't hear me and asked again. Finally she said "you haven't heard?". I went silent thinking there had been an accident. She started in detail how he had been caught with a concealed weapon and it was an automatic prison sentence where it happened and he was about halfway through his 90 days time. It was then she told me they would be moving to Yadkinville when he got out. It wasn't illegal to carry a gun for protection in North Carolina. Wilbur had done most of the arranging.

When Danny got out he and Wilbur became partners at Farmington Dragway near their homes and created the track's first motorcycle races. I never talked to Danny about his unjust felony sentence. His partnership at the track only lasted a few years but he spent the rest of his life there in the home he moved into. I would spend alot of time there in the years to come.

Wilbur was at Danny's funeral a few years ago. It was the first time I had seen him in years.
 
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